Workers begin strike at sweet factory after pay row

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tangerine workers strike at York factory
Tangerine workers strike at York factory

Related tags: Private equity firm

Workers at sweet manufacturer Tangerine’s York factory began their four-day strike yesterday (November 8), after final pay negotiations between employer and employees broke down on Monday afternoon (November 7).

The GMB union had given Tangerine until 2pm on November 7 to revise its offer of a 1% pay rise to staff – an offer that was unanimously rejected by its members last week (November 4). An improved offer was made before the deadline, but it was again rejected by 92% of the union’s members, said the union.

GMB organiser Ben Kirkham said: “Our members have decisively refused this measly improvement to the offer they had already rejected. Tangerine’s continued failure to offer an improved deal has left a sour taste in the mouth.

‘Backed into a corner’

“GMB members feel that they have been backed in to a corner and are faced with no other option than to strike. I really must stress that this is the last resort for our members.”

Industrial action began at 6am this morning, and is planned until at least the end of November, the union confirmed. It said action short of strikes would continue if further negotiations failed.

The strike isn’t just about pay, Kirkham said. It was planned after “a long line of attacks”​ on paid breaks, hand washing times, pension contributions and bonus payments, he claimed.

“This is not about rejecting an outright 1% pay increase, this is about GMB members rebuilding their terms and conditions,”​ he said. Since Tangerine was bought by US private equity firm Blackstone Group, the company had been “eroding workers’ terms and conditions in favour of profit”​.

‘Smash the Tangerine dream’

“We’ve seen a US-based private equity firm come to the UK and smash the Tangerine dream. What was once a pleasant place to work and a valued career choice for many is now nothing more than a sweet return for its capital partners. We’ve even seen the warehouse radio removed. Why?”

A Tangerine spokesman responded to the GMB’s specific claims​: “We are disappointed by this decision because we feel our enhanced pay and break time offer is a positive step forward for the long-term future of this historic factory.

“It’s surprising that some York employees have taken this step, particularly when we have invested more than £8M at the site during a period of intense competition within the UK confectionery market.

“Our door remains open to the GMB to resolve this amicably but, in the meantime the factory remains operational and we’d like to thank the many staff who turned up to work today, ensuring we continue to supply our customers and the public with their favourite sweets as normal.”

A company spokeswoman told yesterday (November 8): “Currently the factory is operating with minimum impact as many employees have turned up to work the first shift this morning.”

Meanwhile, fire crews​ were called to the factory at 8:09pm on October 31, after a faulty component on a sugar boiling machine caused a fire.

Tangerine workers’ strike – at a glance

  • Rejected 1% pay rise deal last week
  • Rejected an improved offer on Monday (November 7)
  • Four-day strike begins today

Related topics: Confectionery, People & Skills

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